Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Mid Winter ??????

The aftermath of the Christmas and New Year flooding lingered on across the Somerset Levels where an excellent small site at Heath House provided a superb view of the calm waters and an opportunity to walk locally at the tranquil Shapwick Heath bird reserve. 
A mate's birthday celebration in Bristol was an entertaining evening with excellent food and conversation at hand but little alcohol for me as I was in charge of logistics.
Back in Coventry after visiting a friend in Shipham I spent some time persuading a new wireless printer to talk to my netbook which will make it easier to print off stuff whilst on the road. The old one which has served me well and been down to the southern hemisphere and back was rehomed in Somerset - I expect we will exchange Christmas cards for a year or two.

Bothy antics resumed with a visit to the Elan Valley project where the Welsh rain has defeated an oak door fitted to the loo - it seems beyond repair and an alternative arrangement seems necessary. Changing the door to a window and opening up a new access from the store shed seems to be a suitable solution which will retain the 'loo with a view' and make use more comfortable in inclement weather.
Whilst there I met a guy staying for the night and we arranged that I would pick him up next morning en route to Snowdonia before heading up to the cosy comforts of the small site outside Llangurrig where hook up, telly and internet made for a comfortable night. The owner Sue works very hard to maintain a simple but satisfying place to stay and I was touched to see she had written to the Club magazine to thank those who had been so supportive last year when her late mother had been ill - I look forward to return visits later in the year.
After calling at www.nannerth.co.uk to inspect their accommodation I picked Donnard up from the Elan valley and we headed across to Dolgellau and fish 'n chips for lunch before dropping in to Penrhos bothy where a spindle for the stove damper was missing. However a quick return to town sourced a suitable M12 bolt and an hour later all was well.
A further hour later we were pulling up in the Pennant valley in SW Snowdonia and as dusk fell walked up to the new potential bothy project where Mike and Keith had the stove alight. I had decided to spend the night back in the van so departed well after dark and was soon alone in a large bog with little in the way of markers as to my onward route. However thanks to a decent torch and the distant lights of Porthmadog acting as a guide I avoided the deep flooded former slate quarry and reached my cosy abode where a dozen tea lights soon had things warmed up as tea simmered. Incidentally a cheap 12v PC cooling fan improved things considerably as located in the roof it redistributed the warm air back to floor level and I may look in to incorporating a length of ducting to refine the system further.
Heavy rain on Saturday morning encouraged me to lie low until Martin, Frank and Juliet arrived after which we all headed the mile or so up the mountain with coal, food and other provisions for a thorough inspection of what will be an interesting MBA project. The owner and Leeds Mountaineering Club (the current incumbents) seem content to transfer responsibility for this intriguing building to the Association and whilst as ever access is a little challenging there seemed to be plenty of support from those of us likely to undertake the work. The two side barns need fairly urgent attention to the roofs, some internal work is required regarding fire regulations and the current porch will be removed as it is somewhat incongruous!!

A photo in the link shows Martin looking forward to more wall pointing which should be less tedious than the sessions endured last year at LCB! After a constructive chat with the owner and a fuss of Ben the sheep dog I returned to the van leaving the rest to enjoy a cosy night under clear skies.
Sunday dawned dry and bright so that by 9 a few of us were climbing to the end peak of the Nantlle Ridge for superb views across Anglesey and the Lleyn peninsula. A few exhilerating hours saw the ridge completed and a return via the substantial Cwm Pennant slate works where a veritable terrace of potential bothies caught my eye. The impressive inclined planes led down to a disused railway that took me neatly back to base after some seven hours on the hills - new boots had only caused one blister but the so far unusually mild winter meant I missed out on any snow and ice on which to try out newly acquired crampons.
A wet Monday persuaded me to return to Coventry across mid Wales with some new areas worthy of further exploration (such as the Tanat valley) traversed. Later this week a brief foray to Yorkshire and Derbyshire beckons so you can follow me around via Spotty Spot here and look back at some pictorial highlights HERE

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Storming in to 2014

Portugal caught the tail end of the weather systems that washed out many a UK Christmas with torrential rains and powerful winds causing a long power cut during most of Christmas Eve giving me a chance to do some reading even if by candlelight as I decided the village bonfire was unlikely to be lit.
Christmas Day itself proved much better with a good walk taking in some Roman stepping stones and a minor bonus as a wrecked T4 van owned by a Brit still had the sun visor I have been after since Morocco.
Gary dropped by between visits to Spain and Lisbon so I gave him some peace by heading down to the Roman ruins and spectacular churches of Evora returning via Evoramonte and a brief foray back in to Spain.
On the Saturday what should have been a quiet meal for two became quite a party as we joined another UK couple and their local builder and his family for a meal in the restaurant in Portagem. As their lad spoke very good English we were all able to enjoy the excellent atmosphere and food and later retired to a local bar until well after midnight.
During the last few days of my stay I had Maya to walk and enjoyed a mix of conditions whilst during the drier spells the neighbours continued to pick the campsite olives and prune back the trees - on New Year's Day a couple from Yorkshire arrived and were soon settled in at the start of what I am sure will be another busy but successful season for Gary.
I was away to Lisbon before daybreak the next day and by 10.30 had returned the hire car, checked in my case and was soon airborne on time for Bristol. Crossing the south west of the UK gave some impression of the floods, particularly over the Somerset Levels where we flew right above the Cheddar reservoir.
Thus my short sojourn south was at an end - the van started first time after sitting for a fortnight - and I was soon enjoying a beer with family in Shropshire.

So endeth another year with much to be thankful for - I have a link here to the last of the Portuguese piccies but hope you will find time to click here for a link to a larger album of pictures taken over the last decade since I adopted digital photography.

These reflect a host of shared experiences and happy memories and I would like to say a huge

to all those friends, family members and fellow travellers whose contributions are so very much appreciated.

A winter project over the next few weeks is to scan in some of the 3500 slides that evoke memories from the 80's and 90's - not a bad way to pass my first winter in the UK for 8 years.